Tuesday, 16 April 2013

New STPCD and Toolkit confirm Gove's attacks on teachers' pay and education

Gove’s new Pay and Conditions Document and Toolkit confirm worst fears on Performance Pay

A new 2013 School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), confirming Gove’s divisive performance-pay plans, has been released on the Department for Education website, along with a ‘Toolkit’ of dangerous advice encouraging schools to set teacher against teacher.

A new introductory section to the new STPCD summarises all of the new attacks on teachers – which are also attacks on education - being introduced by Michael Gove.

These include the following key changes:

(1) “the ending of annual incremental pay progression for all pay progression after the September 2013 pay award”
(2) “the introduction of pay progression linked to performance for all pay progression from September 2013 onwards”
(3) “the replacement of the current threshold test for progression from the main to the upper pay range with new ‘simpler’ criteria”
(4) “to remove any obligation on schools when recruiting to match a teacher’s existing salary on either the main, the upper or the unqualified pay scale”
(5) and, although not spelt out in the introduction , the removal of fixed pay points on the main and upper pay scales so that even where pay progression is awarded, schools could choose to award just a few hundred pounds rather than a full pay increment.

Let’s look at those points in more detail:

An end to incremental progression

At present, newer teachers are nearly always able to rely on yearly progression up the pay scale - at least up to M6. Since the 1920s, Governments have agreed, even if only now for those early years of a teacher's career, that a year’s extra teaching experience should be recognised with an extra pay increment – but not this Government.

The new STPCD confirms (paragraph 7) that “pay awards made in September 2013 will be based on the 2012 pay system of incremental pay”. So teachers can at least still expect to progress up the main pay scale this September. However, unless we strike together to make sure this legislation is repealed, all annual pay progression will depend on judgements of ‘performance’ by September 2014.

All pay progression will be linked to performance

Paragraph 21 spells out what schools have to do under the new legislation, including:
“ a. The decision whether or not to award pay progression must be related to the teacher’s performance, as assessed through the school or authority’s appraisal arrangements”
“d. Pay decisions must be clearly attributable to the performance of the teacher in question”
“e. Continued good performance as defined by an individual school’s pay policy should give a classroom or unqualified teacher an expectation of progression to the top of their respective pay range” (but see below for what being considered ‘good’ might require)
“f. A decision may be made not to award progression whether or not the teacher is subject to capability proceeding”

In other words, anything short of “continued good performance” will mean losing out on a pay rise. Even being held back for one year on the main scale could cost a teacher thousands of pounds in lost salary over just a few years – and a loss in pension as well.

What kind of performance does the DfE recommend deserves a pay rise?

Take a look at the model pay policy included in the DfE’s toolkit and you’ll see exactly how divisive Gove’s plans are. It recommends that ‘performance’ is assessed through a range of evidence including, as you might expect, ‘pupil progress’ and ‘lesson observations’ but also adds as a suggestion ‘the views of pupils and parents’ ! It then suggests that Governors draw up precise criteria and link achievement towards them to differentiated pay rises.  

For example, “Teachers will be eligible for a pay increase of £x if e.g. they meet all their objectives, are assessed as fully meeting the relevant standards and all teaching is assessed as at least good with some teaching being assessed as outstanding”. But that “teachers may be eligible for £y if e.g. they meet all their objectives and all teaching is assessed as at least good”. There’s a clear implication that if teaching isn’t at least ‘good’, then that’s no pay rise for you!

Even more divisively, an alternative approach recommends looking at ‘relative performance’ so that “Teachers will be eligible for a pay increase of £x if e.g. they are judged as being within the top 20/15/x% of teachers in their school” but “eligible for £y if e.g. they are judged as being within the top 40/30/ y% of teachers in their school”. Again, there’s a clear implication that if you’re not in the ‘top 40%’ of teachers, then there’s no pay rise for you!

Making it harder to progress onto the Upper Pay Range

Paragraph 17 of the STPCD says that to be paid on the upper pay range, you have to show:
a) that the teacher is highly competent in all elements of the relevant standards; and
b) that the teacher’s achievements and contribution to a school are substantial and sustained.

Again, take a look at the model pay policy included in the DfE’s toolkit and it’s clear that Gove’s real intention is to make it harder to ‘cross the threshold’ – and demand more from you if you’re there.

The DfE pay policy suggests that ‘highly competent’ is defined as “e.g. performance which is not only good but also good enough to provide coaching and mentoring to other teachers, give advice to them and demonstrate to them effective teaching practice and how to make a wider contribution to the work of the school”. Similarly, It suggests that ‘substantial’ might mean “e.g. of real importance, validity or value to the school; play a critical role in the life of the school; provide a role model for teaching and learning; make a distinctive contribution to the raising of pupil standards”. In short, the new STPCD is extending the kind of demands that have been used to define UPS3 – and often to block progression to the top of the upper pay spine – to apply across the whole of the upper pay range.

The DfE model pay policy also ambiguously suggests that ‘sustained’ might mean “e.g. maintained continuously over a long period e.g. X number of school year(s)” In other words, perhaps that ‘sustained’ performance might have to be for more than the current two years?

No protection of salary when you leave your post

Even if you manage to haul yourself over ‘the threshold’ in one school, you have no guarantee of being put on the same pay range - or on the same pay point on either the main or upper pay range - when you move to a new school. This could mean that a teacher moving to a new school from a U3 post – whether by choice, career break, or under duress - could have their pay cut by as much as £15,000.

Paragraph 14.3 spells out that “any pay increase awarded to a teacher on the main pay range ... must be permanent for as long as the teacher remains employed within the same school or employer ... but is not otherwise to be deemed to be permanent by operation of the terms of this Document”. Paragraph 17.5 is even clearer “Any decision made [about being on the upper pay range] applies only to employment in that same school”. 

Just to make it absolutely clear that this is all about a ‘race to the bottom’ to make teachers compete for jobs by selling themselves at the lowest possible cost, the Toolkit suggests that one of the factors that governors need to consider in offering a starting salary is, of course, “market conditions”. In case the message wasn’t clear, it adds that “there is no assumption that a teacher will be paid at the same rate as they were being paid in a previous school”.

No more fixed pay points

Paragraphs 15 for the Main pay range – and paragraph 16 for the Upper pay range – don’t contain a fixed range of pay points anymore. Instead, the STPCD is only going to legislate for a minimum and maximum salary level for the main and upper pay ranges.

The Toolkit spells out what it wants Governors to consider: “Do you want to use the discretionary reference points between the statutory minimum and maximum on the main pay range? Would you prefer a longer range, with more points on it, or a shorter one with fewer points?”. In other words, different schools could apply different pay scales.

Worse, the clear implication of the advice in the Toolkit referred to above is that the amount you move up those scales would depend on your ‘absolute’ or ‘relative’ performance. So, even if it’s agreed that you should move up your pay range, the amount of pay progression awarded may be different for different teachers. This will be a threat held over teachers to bully them into taking on even more workload or risk facing only partial progression up the pay scale, or perhaps none at all.

Bullied into line by Ofsted – and by budget pressures

The Toolkit asks Heads and Governors to consider “How much do you want to spend on performance-related pay?” and “How can you ensure that you are using performance related pay to get the best value for money?” – a clear invitation to cut costs by cutting salaries.

The Toolkit is also blatant in making clear that Ofsted will be used as a ‘big stick’ to try and bully Governing Bodies into adopting the harsh approach recommended by the DfE.
It emphasises that “the Ofsted school inspection handbook ... makes clear that there should be a strong link between appraisal and salary progression and that this should be considered as part of the judgement on the quality of leadership and management of the school”. 

It also states that “When they inspect your school Ofsted will ask for anonymised information from the last three years, which shows the proportions of teachers who have progressed along the main pay scale ... to, and through, the upper pay scale ... and ... include information about patterns of progression through the different salary scale points, and comparisons between subject departments and/or teachers deployed in different key stages”.

Get informed, get ready for action, demand your school/Authority adopts Union policies

The new STPCD document is still officially a ‘draft’ but only because it can’t finally be made law until a further decision is made by Gove later this term “regarding the application of the 1 per cent pay uplift for 2013”. In other words, regardless of pay progression, we don’t yet know whether every teacher will get a 1% annual increase in September or if the increase will only be awarded to some teachers. Otherwise, the new legislation is now crystal clear.

There’s no time to wait. The STPCD may have put off the blocking of pay progression for another year but teachers moving post could be hit be the ending of ‘pay portability’ between posts well before that. 

What’s also clear is that there is now an immediate task facing every school group and Local Association. That’s because the Toolkit suggests schools revise and agree new pay and appraisal policies in THIS summer term 2013.

The Toolkit makes clear that schools need to “review and revise pay and appraisal policies and/or any supporting policy/practice on objective setting - to ensure that school is clear about what it wants to reward, how that is reflected in teachers’ objectives, how performance against the relevant standards will be assessed and how appraisal will be linked to pay progression” and for the “Governing Body to agree and adopt the policies ... and to determine what provision should be made in the school’s budget for discretionary pay awards and pay progression”.

So, while we prepare for regional and national strike action in the months ahead, we also need to urgently negotiate with schools, Local Authorities and academy chains to seek adoption of the model pay policy currently being finalised by the NUT and NASUWT which will seek to at least protect teachers from the worst of these attacks. 

Conference policy made clear that, “where agreement cannot be reached on a pay policy” action could include “moving to sustained strike action in those schools where members support it”.

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